What Is Faster: a Short or Long Preamble for a Wireless Connection?by David LipscombUpdated September 28, 2017
Wireless networking was once only used as a substitute for wired connections. With the explosion of the Internet and portable networked devices, however, wireless connections have become indispensable in home and office environments. Preambles are prefixes for data sent from your router to your wireless devices and are chosen based on connection quality. Short and long preambles each have their place in different situations.
Preambles are pauses that come before a wireless signal hits a networking device. This pause varies in length, the duration of which defines it as a long or short preamble. This data packet supplies the receiving device with the timing data each device needs for proper network synchronization. Following the preamble, the header supplies the receiving device with the broadcast type, speed and length of time it takes to complete the entire transmission of the data.
Most wireless "b" devices are preset for long preambles. This allows increased compatibility between wireless devices, sometimes at the expense of speed. All wireless "b" devices must support long preambles, while short preambles are optional. The 802.11b protocol, for example, allows switching from a short preamble to long and back again to remedy difficulties in data transmission between devices.
Newer wireless "b" devices using a short preamble typically experience quicker data transfers. Moving from a long to short preamble will not solve poor connection issues or slow Internet speeds. However, moving to wireless "g" and wireless "n" devices increases transfer speed and range. Short preambles work with every wireless type other than older types with limited transmission rates in the 1 to 2 Mbps range.
Tips and Tricks
Configuring all wireless devices for long or short preambles is recommended. Unfortunately, this means that the lowest-performing device dictates the settings for all others, or they risk incompatibility. Check the manufacturer websites or instruction manuals of your devices to determine their optimal settings. Note that in most cases, setting your devices to long preambles ensures compatibility if slower connection speeds are tolerable.
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